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Modder Superior: Digging deep into mods for Terraria

Not underground anymore, but I dig it.

Featured post We're going to need a bigger boat, if you're looking at going Ahab on the Tremor mod's space-whale

Terraria may not be dominating headlines like it used to, but the mining and crafting action RPG is still popular, with tens of thousands of players at any given time, according to Steam’s numbers. While there are rumblings of a major update coming soon, a shortage of official patches has allowed an easy-to-use (if unofficial) modding framework to flourish, spawning some enormous mods. Getting it all set up and downloading mods is a walk in the alien park. Here’s a handful of the biggest and best to get you started.

tModLoader


What: Essential modding tool
Developer: Blushiemagic & crew
From: Official site, Github and Terraria forum thread

There was a time when just installing Terraria mods, let alone making them, was a massive uphill struggle. Now you can just grab tModLoader, unzip it to your Terraria directory and launch the game as normal. Voila! An in-game menu now offers a world of Terraria mods, with most available for search, download and launch within the game. Do exercise some caution, as if you activate too many mods at once the game may fail to load, but that can be fixed by navigating to your Documents\My Games\Terraria\ModLoader\Mods folder and clearing some out.

Many smaller mods are compatible and won’t grumble if you load them in parallel. Some larger mods play nice with each other, too. For maximum compatibility, I highly recommend you follow the official site’s guidance and use the most recent stable version of tModLoader (which is v0.10.1.5 at the time of writing). This may change soon, with update 1.3.6 on the horizon. If all goes as hoped, the mod loader (and mods) will smoothly transition into the next era of Terraria. If we’re unlucky, everything will be broken for weeks. Fingers crossed, eh?

Terraria Overhaul


What: Massive mechanical rework
Developer: Mirsario & team
From: Official wikiTerraria forum thread and in-game browser

While it adds less than other major mods, Terraria Overhaul tears out half the game’s guts, replacing them with flashier, fancier alternatives. Grappling hooks now actually let you swing from them, and combat is more involved, with manually reloaded guns and a handy dodge-roll button. Melee combat in particular is now far more interesting, with power attacks, free aiming on all close-combat weapons, and damage boosted by speed (charge or jump in to hit harder). There’s a handful of new weapons and tools, but not very many.

The changes are largely good, though the persistent gore that needs mopping up in your home can be a pain. Overhaul mostly fleshes out the world, with changing seasons altering the climate and sometimes making corrupted regions more dangerous. There are debuffs caused by excess heat or cold, and fire can now spread around. Fires can easily spread in drier seasons (wood houses are a huge liability) and, left unchecked, grassy regions can be converted to a new biome – The Ashes – populated with smouldering monsters that sadly don’t want to play cricket.

While it’ll put more strain on your CPU, the result of using Overhaul is a vastly more reactive world. Having a house half-flooded by a storm while lightning scorches trees is great. The fundamentals are no different, but it feels more like a tactile, loot-hoarding action RPG, rather than a platformer that just happens to have building, looting and exploring. Even the act of moving around is more enjoyable, thanks to better-animated, more segmented character sprites, speedy bunny-hopping, and the ability to swim like a vaguely buoyant human being.

Calamity

What: A boss-slayer’s wet dream with optional challenge modes
Developer: MountainDrew & cohorts
From: Official wikiTerraria forum thread and in-game browser

Possibly the biggest expansion-type mod for the game at present, with a major focus on big fights using overpowered magical gear. There’s over 24 new bosses to fight (each with their own optional battle themes, courtesy of DM Dokuro), hundreds of new enemy types and scads of new items to loot and craft. While there’s new stuff visible from the start, much of Calamity’s biggest tricks are saved for after the battle with the Moon Lord, Terraria’s final boss. The mod’s final, multi-phase boss fight features some very bullet hell-ish patterns to dodge.

If playing on Normal or Expert mode, Calamity isn’t too much changed from regular Terraria, only making it easier to get yourself geared up to go monster hunting. Those wanting more of a challenge have four new modes. ‘Revengeance’ and ‘Death’ mode crank up the overall difficulty, but give you two kinds of super-gauge to lean on. Loot is far better in these modes, however. ‘Armageddon’ mode is a bonus mode that makes bosses land one-hit kills, but the player respawns faster, and ‘Iron Heart’ mode adds permadeath.

While not fully fleshed out like some of the mods below, Calamity also contains a new sub-class. Throwing weapons are a bit of an evolutionary dead-end in regular Terraria, but here a Rogue gear line allows for evasion, aggro reduction and some gnarly power boosts on special thrown gear. On top of consumable throwing weapons, there’s a lot of rogue-type spears to use, with options starting as early as the first hour or so.

Thorium

What: Another massive expansion with a little more restraint
Developer: DivermanSam & pals
From: Official wikiTerraria forum thread and in-game browser

While recently overtaken by Calamity in terms of popularity, Thorium has been kicking around for years, and is nearly as massive, adding new biomes, events and boss fights. It’s a bit more easygoing than Calamity, with its new bosses not stretching the endgame further, but fleshing out the road towards it. They’ve also gone to great efforts to maintain vanilla Terraria’s style. Even the new boss music has a lot of that familiar warbling chiptune sound to it. If you’re looking for a mod that’s ‘Terraria but a bit more’, this is a good place to start.

Probably the biggest change is a pair of new character archetypes – the Healer and Bard – with basic equipment for them available early. Both are more useful in multiplayer, but still viable when playing alone. Bard weapons deal middling sonic damage to enemies, but buff you and your party when you deal damage. They’re best at dealing spikes of damage, too, as you can only toot on a trumpet so many times before running out of breath, as indicated by a little star-shaped gauge floating above your head.

The Healer class is a support character, and probably less-than-optimal unless you’re playing in co-op. If you are, it provides a lot of healing and buffing to the party, with lots of spells and weapons that heal teammates while damaging enemies. You can play a bit more aggressively as a healer, with some ‘dark’ healer gear that’s focused more on debuffs and poisons. Of course, this being Terraria you aren’t locked into a single class or archetype, so you can mix and match gear from multiple roles.

Tremor Remastered

What: Everything and the kitchen sink expansion
Developer: Jofairden and partners, now maintained by Batby
From: Official wikiTerraria forum thread and in-game browser

Even Tremor’s developers admit that they perhaps got a little wild with this one. It adds so much stuff that the mod’s own Wiki page hasn’t been able to keep up, not listing some of the 21 bosses, 13 town NPCs and vast swathes of loot. It’s similar in scope to the newer Calamity, though a little rougher around the edges. Tremor also extends Terraria’s endgame beyond the Moon Lord boss fight.

It has a bit of an ‘anything goes’ vibe to it, with boss fights including an evil corn-cob, a cursed Tiki Totem, an alchemist flying around on a rocket-powered cauldron and even a meteor-lobbing cosmic whale. The mod has been criticised for its extended endgame being a bit too fiddly, introducing a whole new set of crafting materials to dig up for yet another cycle of upgrades and gear. Still, up to that point it offers similar variety to Thorium, and gives some nice boosts in the early game, including making it easier to get your hands on summoning staves.

One of Tremor’s notable stand-out features is the Alchemist class, a support fighter. In the early game they heal, poison, explode or otherwise debuff by throwing assorted flasks of alchemical weirdness at the enemy. They can also craft a variety of ‘sprayer’ guns, which use those flasks as ammo and belch alchemical clouds. There’s dozens of flask types available, plus a handful of armour sets that boost alchemy damage. While not as technical as Thorium’s more oddball classes, if you like throwing weapons or explosives, it could be a fun, fresh way to play.

The original development team of this mod have since moved on to the slowly growing ‘quality over quantity’ mod Antiaris, leaving Tremor to be original poster child for quantity over everything.

Super Terraria World

What: What if Terraria was an MMORPG?
Developer: Flippi & gang
From: Official wiki and Terraria forum thread

A stunning piece of work, although not my particular cup of tea. Reminding me a bit of StarCraft Universe for StarCraft 2, it strips Terraria of most of its sandbox trappings in favour of an authored MMORPG experience. Quest-giving NPCs, towns, structured crafting, mining only from specific nodes and everything you’d expect from World Of Warcraft, but as a 2D platformer. It results in an interesting blend of familiar game rules that don’t quite mesh, at least in my head. Still, your mileage may vary.

While I bounced off Super Terraria World after the wild freedom of the likes of Calamity, one of this mod’s strongest points is its world design. A complex branching map of instances allow it to support over fifty players per server (tiny by MMO standards, but huge by Terraria’s) and every environment is “handmade”, with no procedural generation. Even objects as minor as rope bridges are very detailed, overgrown with vines in jungle areas. Huge effort has been poured into structures that are little more than backdrops you’ll only see once.

Unlike the other mods here downloaded and launched through tModLoader, Super Terraria World requires a different (but still simple) approach, so long as you have the Steam version of the game. Just make sure you have a clean install of Terraria, download the STW launcher from the mod’s forum thread and run it. It installs itself, confirms the install location for the base game and asks you to log into Steam to confirm ownership. From there, it just launches from the icon on your desktop.

Useful minor mods


A handy checklist of the gods you’ve slain. Some are kinda forgettable.

Not everything has to be a weekend-devouring conversion mega-mod, and thanks to the magic of tModLoader, it’s possible to stack up a pile of smaller goodies to enjoy all at once. Terraria Overhaul is compatible with most of the big conversion mods, but so are a variety of little quality-of-life improvements. Probably the most universally useful is the Recipe Browser, allowing you to pull up a searchable list of all crafting recipes in both the main game and whatever combination of mods you’re running. Now there’s no reason not to lock the Guide in a deep, dark basement.

Another quality-of-life mod that actively supports most of the big sandbox expansions is Boss Checklist. If you’ve been away from the game for a day or ten, it’s easy to forget what’s next on your cosmic hit list. Being able to see which ones you’ve missed is just plain handy. Another useful one (though possibly needing personal tweaks) is Yet Another Boss Health Bar. Mostly aesthetic, and Calamity has its own health bar solution, but it looks nice, giving you a clearer idea of just how much damage you’re doing in your throwdown of the day.

The Magic Storage mod and its crafting interface, for a less fiddly Terraria.

While some may consider it cheating, Magic Storage is extremely useful, too, allowing you to build an upgradeable one-point-of-access network for all your stored resources and gear. This comes in especially handy when playing big mods like Calamity and Tremor that feature tons of new items. It’s by the lead developer of tModLoader, too. It looks like Re-Logic have been taking notes on this. The upcoming Terraria 1.3.6 update will include a portal-based banking system that hoovers up inventory overflow and stashes it at home – no more town runs to dump dirt.

Of course, if you’d rather never worry about storage at all, the Extensible Inventory mod gives you an infinitely expandable tabbed inventory capable of carrying everything ever. Cheating? Yes, but nobody is going to judge you speeding up the grind to get to the next boss this way. It also requires the Mod Helpers framework to function, so grab that first.

There only being so many hours in a day, this list is far from comprehensive (and missing many from the pre-tModLoader era) but that’s what the comment box is for. Share favourites, and perhaps a few fun blends. Many larger mods are compatible with one another. What’s the wildest mix you got working without the game crashing? Everyone else, go on, grab your pickaxe; there’s potentially unbalanced treasure in them thar’ hills.

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